Rob Waring – Pastel Workshop – 30 August 2014
I am not really a pastel lover, I have never really given the medium a thought, although I have admired work that others have done. I think I have always thought of it as messy, although it cant be that really as I love working in charcoal and look like a coalman when I have finished, so no it cant be that. A bit scratchy then…mmm…maybe.
For some reason it was difficult to get people to come on this workshop, whether it was the time of year, the subject or the medium I don’t know, but what I do know is that everyone who did come produced a very satisfying and lovely finished portrait, under the gentle guidance of a very experienced painter.
Rob started the workshop with a practical demonstration, explaining his technique for using pastels as he worked. His palette was limited to four tonal pastels from light to dark in flesh colours, 2 pastel pencils, a dark brown and a reddy orange, and a fine pointed dark pastel, he worked on a grey pastel paper.
Firstly he measured the face by using his hand, from finger tip to wrist and making a mark with the orange pencil on the paper at each point. He then divided it up for the nose and mouth lines. From there he measured a point for the left eye, the gap between the eyes and then the right eye, drawing in the vague positions of each. Concentrating on the eyes, forehead and nose areas which Rob described as ‘fixed’ positions, the next crucial point was the highlight on the end of the nose, and the gap between the eyes, if established correctly then the painting would ‘look’ right.
The lower half of the face was left till later as this area was the one that would change as the model got bored and potentially fell asleep, so if you had established it early on when the sitter was happy then the facial expression on the cheeks, mouth and jaw line would change and you would have to keep correcting.
After sketching in the rough dimensions, then Rob changed to the darker pencil and started adding in the shadowy areas on the cheek and around the eyes and nose areas, scuffing in a bit of hair as well. Then onto the pastels and concentrating on the tonal range he began to build up the layers fleshing out the skin and slowly bringing the model to life.
One of the major ‘no, no’s’ was ‘do not blend in with your hands’ as the image will become flat and lifeless. Just build the layers up using the different pastel tones.
Then it was our turn. We had two models, so there was plenty of room to get close to them, so after a lot of shuffling about and a coffee we tentatively put pastel to paper. Rob guided us through the process, encouraging us to look harder, it was the eyes that I found the most enlightening. I was just putting in the blue iris at the bottom half of the eye, when Rob said to shade over the top half of the eye socket as this is in shadow of the top eyelid, demonstrating this for me he then put a pin prick of light on the pupil, then said to add the white of the eye on the left hand side and on the right just a small line to indicate the inside of the lid. Your own eyes filled everything else in, it was very effective.
Little tips like this were invaluable. The emphasis on drawing and establishing the framework, measuring all the time, then filling out the flesh tonally with the pastel, it made you look hard at the subtle changes of tone, a very good exercise from life.
The final pictures were all very different, and we were all very happy with the results. Many thanks to Rob and his wife and to Amanda the model, it was a superb day enjoyed by all.
Oh, and it wasn’t at all messy, with clouds of dust everywhere, far from it… but it was tiring and a cuppa and a bar of chocolate when I got home was a very satisfying end to the day.